Up and down Lincoln Financial Field the Washington Commanders marched on Monday night, running backs slashing through the line of scrimmage, receivers unfettered in the secondary.
The Eagles’ secondary seemed a step slow. Their defensive line was pushed around by the Commanders’ offensive line.
Tackling wasn’t the Eagles problem. It was winning the battles upfront. On many plays, Washington runners got through the line of scrimmage before encountering resistance.
In this week’s coaches’ critique — where we look at the performance of Eagles’ coaches, good and bad — we take a dim view at defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
Gannon has been on the hot seat before in his two-year tenure with the Eagles, his first coordinator job. Last year, the Eagles’ defense gave up yards in bunches because it was trying to prevent explosive plays. Gannon was criticized for that approach.
The defense as a whole is better this year but for Eagles fans it’s demoralizing when a 4-5 team comes into your building with their back-up quarterback and knocks around the league’s third-ranked defense.
The final numbers were pretty gruesome for the Eagles’ defense. Gannon blamed himself at a news conference Thursday for twice only having 10 defenders on the field. Geez.
- Washington gained 152 yards on 49 carries. The Eagles had allowed an average of 121.4 yards.
- The Commanders gained 211 yards on 18 completions. The Eagles had allowed an average of 177.6 yards.
- Washington was 12-of-21 (57.1 percent) on third-down conversions, 9-of-12 (75 percent) in the critical first half when the Commanders scored 20 points. Coming into the game, Washington was converting 34 percent of third-down plays (26th in the league) and the Eagles were allowing 37.9 percent of third-down conversions (12th in the league).
Time of possession was another nightmare for the Eagles.
- In the first half, Washington had the ball 23 minutes, 49 seconds compared with 6:11 for the Eagles. The 17:38 edge was a *franchise record* for Washington, which has been playing in the NFL since 1932.
The Commanders didn’t get a first down on only two of their 10 possessions. They had 18 first downs in the first half. The Eagles just couldn’t get a defensive stop to halt Washington’s momentum.
- “We didn’t do enough to win the game on our end, flat out,” Gannon said. “Let them possess the ball for a good amount of time, obviously the entire game, especially the first half.
- “There were some things we have to clean up execution-wise, detail-wise. That starts with me.
- “The amount of plays and the time of possession, I felt like that really hurt our team because we’re on the field for a long time, and when you do that, then they have the opportunity to score points.
- “And on the flip side to that, our offense is sitting on the bench and I don’t like that.
- “Gave up 20 points in the first half. You’re not going to win many games when do you that, so we have our work ahead of us.”
Defense has to be an area of concern for an 8-1 team with grand visions. The Eagles won’t be content with a one-and-done in the playoffs. They’ve started too fast and come too far to be that team that gets knocked out early.
They believe they have something special cooking this year and they need the run defense, especially, to be a strength.
- “It’s always our job as coaches to put [players] in the best position to make plays, and as players will tell you, it’s their job to execute the technique and the assignment to make sure we’re creating the plays,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
- “So, what might have been good to stop Houston might not be good to stop Indy. But it always comes down to the fundamentals, playing physical, playing with the fundamentals, and tackling sound.”
In the last two games, the Eagles have been without injured first-round pick Jordan Davis.
Davis is a run-stopper who was playing about 30 percent of the defensive snaps. So, he played on what the Eagles thought were running downs. Missing a raw rookie shouldn’t cause the Eagles’ run defense to implode to the degree it has the past two weeks.
The Eagles rank 20th against the run, second against the pass and third overall. That third overall ranking looks great in the stats but didn’t look so swell on the field Monday.
Now the Eagles have another defensive line injury, to second-year tackle Marlon Tuipulotu. The Eagles placed him on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least four games. They just signed defensive linemen Linval Joseph, 34, and Ndamukong Suh, 35. On Oct. 26, they traded for defensive end Robert Quinn, 32.
The rent-a-player approach is meant to get the Eagles through the injuries with veterans they hope have some gas left in the tank. They don’t have many options this late in the season.
With Colts’ first-team All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor on the docket Sunday, the Eagles don’t need injuries at their most vulnerable link in the chain.